"Don't shoot the piano player-this one will fight back."
In a reversal of the usual trend, the new French film “The Beat My Heart Skipped” is actually a European translation of an American art-house film–in this case, James Toback’s 1978 masterpiece “Fingers.”Both films share the same central conceit of a young man (Romain Duris in the role formerly played by Harvey Keitel) who is drawn equally to both a life of crime as a mid-level thug collecting debts for his old man (Niels Arestrup) and the equally strong desire to make it as a classical pianist. The difference is that while Toback’s original was a wild and passionate ride that was just as unpredictable as its main character, this version, directed by Jacques Audiard (who made a splash a couple of years ago with “Read My Lips”), wrestles the material into a much smoother and more psychologically sound package which includes a conventional romantic subplot (with a Vietnamese piano teacher played by Lin Dan Pham) while eliminating such fascinating digressions from the original as the unforgettably charismatic thug played by Jim Brown.
The trouble with that is that it was Toback’s flamboyant excesses that made “Fingers” (as well as later films like “Two Girls and a Guy” and “When Will I Be Loved”) so distinct and memorable in the first place and by removing them, Audiard is left with a story that really doesn’t make a hell of a lot of sense on its own. However, this is not to say that this is a bad film by any means–fans of Toback’s original may be amused by some of Audirard’s updates (instead of running around with a portable stereo blasting “Summertime, Summertime,” our hero has techno music constantly blaring in his headphones) and the lead performance by Duris is interesting in the way that he reminds us of Keitel’s performance (at times the resemblance between the two is uncanny) while still finding a new and unique approach to the character. The major difference between the two is that this new version lacks the passion that burned in every frame of the original and that is an absence that is evident in every scene–Audiard no doubt made this film because he admired the original and he wanted to do his own spin on the material while Toback made his because he had a story that he absolutely had to tell by any means necessary.As a result, “Fingers” is one of those films that will last for decades to come while “The Beat My Heart Skipped” is a pleasant enough diversion that will eventually be forgotten.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Tribeca Film Festival For more in the 2005 Tribeca Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Seattle Film Festival For more in the 2005 Seattle Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Atlanta Film Festival For more in the 2005 Atlanta Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Edinburgh Film Festival. For more in the 2005 Edinburgh Film Festival series, click here.